Athlete Profile

  • Name: Jessie Hilgenberg
  • Occupation(s): IFBB Figure Pro, Team Athlete, Fitness Model, Competition Coach, Graphic Designer
  • Website:

I've been fortunate to have strong biceps, shapely calves, and great legs for most of my life. I've even had six-pack abs forever! My weak spot has definitely been my shoulders. For a long time, my delts performed a disappearing act.

To compete in figure, I had to take my training to a higher level and sculpt a new look for my body. I focused on building my back, creating a V-taper, and building big, round delts.

My shoulder work is centered on traditional bodybuilding moves. I focus on strength, growth, and rounding out the muscle. When I train, my goal is to force a lot of blood into my deltoids to create full caps for my shoulders.

If you want a set of symmetrical, strong deltoids, then this is the workout for you.

You can lift all day, but if you don't train with intensity, you won't grow. Intensity doesn't necessarily mean grunting, screaming, or throwing around weights. I define intensity by how heavy you lift, how hard you work, and the brevity of your rest periods. You constantly need to ask yourself: How effective was my workout?

Do you walk out of any given session knowing that you chit-chatted for five minutes between sets, did some cardio, and left? Or, do you go in the gym, get it done, and come out knowing that you're making changes to your physique? If you go into the gym with intensity every single time, your body will change.

Apply that intensity to this workout. You'll build the arms you've always wanted and feel great about the hard work you put into your body. Our workout today focuses on big, compound movements for strength and size. We'll also do a little bit of medial-delt work to round the shoulders, as well as some rear-delt work for balance. It shouldn't take you more than 45-60 minutes.

Exercise 1: Incline Barbell Bench Press

  • Warm-up: 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Working Sets: 3 sets of 12 reps with 50% more weight than warm-up
  • Rest: 45 seconds after each set; stretch working muscles during rest

I usually do this exercise with a barbell, but the Smith machine will work just fine. I like this movement because it's a big, compound exercise that recruits a lot of different muscles. Because I don't train chest very often, it's a great way to get in a little upper-chest work.

I like to do compound movements at the beginning of a workout when I have the most strength and energy. To keep tension on my shoulders, I don't lock my elbows at the top of the exercise.

Exercise 2: 45-degree Overhead Barbell Press

  • Working Sets: 3 sets of 12-15 reps per arm
  • Rest: 45 seconds after each set; stretch working muscles during rest

You can do this in any gym. All you need is a 45-pound barbell. Shove one end into a corner, a piece of equipment, or a landmine. You recruit a lot of muscle for this exercise—you'll use your glutes, core, legs, and shoulders. Keep your core tight and shoulders square.

Shoulder Work Ahead: Jessie Hilgenberg's Delt Workout


I take about 30-45 seconds of rest between each set and between each arm. I take a rest between arms because the movement takes a lot of muscle and energy to do correctly.

If it were an isolation exercise like the lateral flye, I could go back and forth easily without resting. But this exercise is so heavy I need to rest and really stretch that muscle.

Exercise 3: Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  • Working Sets: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Rest: 45 seconds after each set; stretch working muscles during rest

I don't lock out my elbows or bring the dumbbells together at the top. That helps keep my shoulders engaged and my traps out of it. I focus entirely on keeping that tension on my medial deltoid.

Exercise 4: Reverse Machine Flyes

  • Working Sets: 3 sets of 12 reps, add weight each set
  • Rest: 45 seconds after each set; stretch working muscles during rest

The rear delt flye is a really great exercise to keep in your shoulder routine because it builds the muscles in your back, pulls your shoulders back, and opens your chest so you appear wider and broader on top.

I love this movement because I can brace my torso against the pad and focus on working my rear delts. Keep a slight bend in your elbow during the exercise. If your elbows are locked, you'll use your triceps too much.

Exercise 5: Single-Arm Side Lateral Raise

  • Working Sets: 3 sets of 15 reps per arm
  • Rest: 30 seconds after each set; stretch working muscles during rest

This exercise really hits the medial deltoid and helps round the shoulders. It's not a compound exercise, so I'm okay with having a shorter rest period. I take my 30-second rest after I've done both arms.

Shoulder Work Ahead: Jessie Hilgenberg's Delt Workout


Don't use momentum on this exercise. I like to use one arm so I'm not inclined to swing the weight to get it up. Perform each rep slow and controlled.

Finisher Arnold Press

  • 1 strip set to failure
  • Rest: 60 seconds 1 ramp set to failure

On shoulder day, I like to do a finisher. One of my favorite and effective techniques is called "running the rack." It's similar to a pyramid set. I start with 25-pound dumbbells and do at least 4-5 reps with them. Then I drop the weight and do as many reps as I can with 20-pound dumbbells. I continue stripping the weight until I'm doing as many reps as I can with 5 pounds.

Then, I take a 60-second break, stretch the muscles being worked, and start again. This time however, I start with the lightest weight, do as many reps as I can, and I keep going back up the rack until I do as many reps with the 25-pound dumbbells as I can.

Adding a finisher to my shoulder day really exhausts the muscles and ensures that I've done my job. I can barely hold the steering wheel on my way home. If you don't like this technique for a finisher, there are plenty of others to try. You can do a triple dropset, regular dropset, or rest-pause set.

Jessie Hilgenberg's Shoulder Smash Workout
Barbell Incline Bench Press Medium-Grip
First 2 sets are warm-up sets.
5 sets, 10, 10, 12, 12, 12 reps (with 50% more weight than warm-up)
+ 6 more exercises


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About the Author

Jessie Hilgenberg

Jessie Hilgenberg

IFBB Pro Jessie Hilgenberg is an up and coming Figure pro and Team athlete!

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